Monday, January 26, 2009

Clamour for BBC to show Gaza appeal intensifies.

I spoke yesterday about how the BBC have got themselves into a pickle over their decision not to broadcast an appeal for the people of Gaza for fear that this would make them appear to be taking sides in this dispute.

They are doing so because they have, in the past, been accused of being anti-Israeli and it is only natural that such an accusation makes one reticent to invite such a scurrilous charge again.

However, the BBC's decision not to air the appeal has actually resulted in a wave of complaints possibly worse than what they might have had to endure from Israel's defenders:

The BBC came under renewed pressure yesterday to broadcast an emergency appeal for Gaza on behalf of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) after it received more than 10,000 complaints about its refusal to show the film.

More than 50 MPs will back an early day motion in the Commons today urging the BBC to reverse its decision. Douglas Alexander, the international development secretary, Ben Bradshaw, the health minister, and Hazel Blears, the communities secretary, all criticised the BBC. Shahid Malik, the justice minister, said he had not met anyone who supported the BBC's stance.

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said the BBC should broadcast the appeal by DEC, an umbrella group of humanitarian charities including Oxfam, Save the Children and the Red Cross.

The appeal will be shown tonight on ITV, Channel 4 and Five. But the BBC is arguing that by screening the humanitarian appeal the corporation "could be interpreted as taking a political stance".

All of her rivals are now showing the advert but I feel that Mark Thompson has dug himself a hole here that he now sees no way of getting out of.

In discussions after the DEC's Gaza appeal proposal was lodged, Gormley is understood to have told BBC executives the appeal would not just be for Palestinian victims of the conflict. "The DEC appeal is for those suffering as a result of the Gaza conflict. The greatest unmet need is in Gaza itself," a DEC spokesman said yesterday. "But DEC members are working in Gaza and Israel, and the Red Cross movement have helped to evacuate people living in southern Israel. We believe that the availability of aid to both Gaza and Israel was understood by the BBC."

I feel for Thompson and for the ridiculous position he know finds himself in. Pressure from Israel and her supporters has led him to make this cowardly decision which he will now defend to the bitter end as if it was a point of high principle.

It is not. And the 10,000 complaints he has received should remind him that, in any situation where both sides are inflamed, sitting on the fence is no guarantee that one will avoid the heat.

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